Gambling may be no stranger to the blockchain, but poker’s appeal amongst players has only expanded further as poker sites embrace bitcoin and Covid-19 moves gameplay increasingly online.
Famed Game Puts Spotlight on Varied Blockchain Use Cases
Although online betting and gaming were already widely popular before the emergence of blockchain, as the technology has played a pivotal role in gaming’s ongoing transition.
Online poker was one of the earliest games to join the blockchain framework due to the inherent fairness and equity that accompanies distributed ledger technology, not to mention the legal woes it faced.
Users from all over the world could join these platforms and verifiably trust that their funds would be kept safe. The discretion of using bitcoin to transact didn’t hurt either, given the anonymous nature of this payment method, allowing players restricted by regulation and geography to participate.
Bitcoin and blockchain have become a mainstay of the poker ecosystem, but the industry’s innovation is far from over.
An Explosive Space
Bitcoin payments have attracted many players, mainly from the U.S., given that most US states still prohibit gaming sites from operating within their borders. Since the “Black Friday” event, which banned popular poker sites from the United States, offshore operations have thrived, and bitcoin has played an outsized role. For instance, non-U.S. citizens will notice that Bitcoin.com hosts a wide variety of popular casino games including virtual poker via cashgames.bitcoin.com or games.bitcoin.com.
Another operator that has reaped the rewards of this shift is Winning Poker Network (WPN). The company, which manages a poker site portfolio, started accepting cryptocurrency deposits in 2014 and currently allows users to withdraw in bitcoin when cashing out. These days, WPN purportedly buys upwards of $100 million in bitcoin per month to meet demand from players.
Other platforms are also entering this explosive space, and among them is Virtue Poker. This Ethereum-based poker platform now commands a gaming license from the Malta Gaming Authority, allowing it to legally operate in multiple markets after becoming the first blockchain-based entity to accomplish this feat.
Fresh off a $5 million funding round raised from Pantera Capital, Consensys, DFG Group, Jez San from Funfair, this Conensys-based project has already received glowing endorsements. Besides counting on famed player Phil Ivey as a brand ambassador and stakeholder, Virtue Poker is very closely linked to Ethereum thanks to Joe Lubin’s role as the founder of Consensys.
The organization, which acts as one of the essential business development and money function conduits for the Ethereum network, helps assure that Virtue Poker’s platform is as transparent and secure as promised ahead of May’s mainnet launch.
Real-Time Poker NFTs Arrive
Besides wagering on the game itself or using cryptocurrency for payments, many other uses for blockchain have arisen in the poker realm, among them digitizing collectibles and events.
To this end, decentralized video delivery platform Theta Network is making serious inroads in the poker industry. The platform has partnered with World Poker Tour (WPT) to stream specific events and feature real-time NFT drops and auctions through its Thetadrop NFT marketplace for the event’s 140 million-plus viewers.
During the live broadcasts, users will be prompted to visit the marketplace to purchase exclusive collectibles and join a live auction for an NFT, which will capture a unique moment during the event. The marketplace promises fast transaction speeds, low fees, and high interoperability with other blockchains, making it possible for NFT-holders to move between supported networks seamlessly.
Although Covid-19 might have been a big spark that lit heightened demand for online poker, the industry’s embrace of blockchain and Bitcoin together will help lead the way for novel use cases that will ultimately benefit players and the game’s budding popularity.
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